Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, and I feel the timing of this couldn’t be more apt, what with tomorrow being Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all about love. The healthy kind, anyway.
But what I want to bring to light is the kind of love that we thought was innocent and pure and wonderful, but is really kinda screwed up. I want to talk about one of my favorite classic coming-of-age romance comedies, Sixteen Candles. And more specifically, why love interest Jake Ryan sucks.
This all started after watching To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before on Netflix. My daughter and I loved it, but I felt like she needed to watch Sixteen Candles, so she can get why Lara Jean loved it so much. It had been years, possibly decades? (damn I’m old) since I’d last seen the film. I remembered the ever wonderful Molly Ringwald, the hunky dude she was after, and the loveable nerd character, who always seemed to be played by Anthony Michael Hall in the eighties. I remembered liking it, maybe not as much as The Breakfast Club, but still thinking it was fun.
Then I watched it again with my daughter.
We got up to the scene where Jake and the loveable geek are just chatting away in the kitchen, talking about girls. Jake starts pontificating about how it isn’t just about the sex, and says this:
“I got Caroline in my bedroom right now, passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to.”
My jaw dropped open a little. I rewound it to make sure I heard it right. If he’s such a catch, why the hell would he even think that, let alone say it out loud to someone? But my problem with Jake doesn’t end there. It’s what he does next that kinda totally horrifies me.
He sends off his grossly inebriated girlfriend with a underaged, unlicensed driver he just met. A guy he spoke with moments before, who asked him in an incredulous tone why he wasn’t violating his incapacitated girlfriend in ten different ways. A guy who made it clear he was basically just a desperate horn dog.
What in the everloving hell? Even if you’re on the verge of a breakup, do you really have a total stranger leave with your girlfriend? And he’s the good guy? The hunk Samantha (Molly Ringwald’s character) wants to share her fragile little heart with?
Not only that…if you watch closely, you’ll notice he places a six-pack of beer in the car with them. So the underaged, unlicensed driver can drive her home intoxicated, to boot. Wow, that’s one hell of a catch.
Am I pissed at the loveable geek character? Yeah, he totally took advantage of that poor girl. I felt betrayed when they made it clear they’d had sex – I think in my mind, I had remembered it as just a fun adventure he had, but didn’t actually do anything with her.
And this girl that was violated…she’s so broken she actually thanks both the geek and her (ex)boyfriend. I want to hear her back story. What the hell happened to her that she allowed herself to become so drunk she wasn’t aware of her actions? And then when she finds out the truth, to somehow be cool with it?
My husband just reminded me about one of the earlier scenes in the movie, when he was talking about Jake’s interesting choice of boots. The scene in which Jake is creepily staring at Samantha in class, and then intercepts a note intended for her friend.
That’s when you realize Jake Ryan is not really just going after her merely for a “serious relationship,” when he reads the note and realizes she wants to have sex with him. He even admits in a subsequent scene that he’s interested in her because she’s always looking at him. How narcissistic is that? I think he wanted someone to fawn over him, someone he can lord over. Caroline (the ill-fated girlfriend) had her own friends and wanted her own life. She had fun, and because she wasn’t totally focused on him, she paid the price.
Jake Ryan not only sucks, he’s a fucking monster.
And yet, everyone remembers him like he’s such a good guy. Like Samantha had her dreams come true when he was waiting for her by his douchey sports car. Sure it’s happily ever after, until she wants to do something with her friends without him. Then she may find herself the next day in a stranger’s car (or maybe even Jake’s car), violated ten different ways.
I know the 80s were a different time. A time when it was okay to sexualize and demean women. I remember getting bummed out re-watching Revenge of the Nerds, when they had a picture of one of the girls naked at the bottom of a pie. I remember thinking, damn, isn’t it the jocks the nerds have the real problem with? Did the girls just being mean to them warrant the humiliation of a naked picture?
I remember feeling when I watched these the first time, that whenever you saw a movie with a woman doing anything bad, she somehow deserved whatever happened to her. And now I watch those movies again and think, damn…we’ve come a long way.
Now in the movies, when you see an inebriated woman who wants to have sex, the good guy refuses. She gets pissed, sure, but he does the right thing and they eventually build a relationship out of mutual respect. I’m just amazed at how we didn’t see that only a few decades ago.
Perhaps it was like a warning to women, designed to get us all to behave or suffer the consequences. Like the sin factor in horror movies – you better be good if you want to survive. I don’t know, but much like watching original series Star Trek episodes, I can’t help but be offended. And in a sense, relieved, too. That we’re evolved more now to not have that mindset anymore.
My advice? Don’t rewatch the classics. It will probably piss you off and ruin your happy little memory. I’m honestly afraid to watch some of my older favorite romance flicks in fear of discovering some other date rapey scenes that hadn’t registered the first time.
On a more pleasant note, I’ll end with this: Have a Happy Valentine’s Day! And please…love responsibly. ><